Firefighters Union Battles Over City Budget

By Rachel Martin - 21Alive

October 22, 2013 Updated Oct 22, 2013 at 11:22 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) – The local Firefighters Union makes a last-ditch effort in the battle over its budget.

The 2014 city budget was approved Tuesday night, but it didn't go down without a fight.

Emotions flared as Fort Wayne City Council debated with the Fort Wayne Firefighters Union over their part of the budget.

The union claims a $1.2 million cut made to their overtime fund will cause them to lose man power, and City Council contends they don't create the budget, they just approve it.

However, City Council has approved several income and property tax increases, which the union says is affecting their bottom line.

The union says it's required to have a minimum of 96 firefighters on duty per day, but now they'll be down to 91 per day.

The new budget supplies the fire department millions to hire and train 15 new firefighters, but the union's worried about the city's safety in the meantime.

"It's very upsetting to know that through public safety we've adopted a Local Option Income Tax (LOIT) on the premise that we were going to strengthen public safety, and we're turning around and diminishing the service that we're providing to the citizens. This compromises citizen safety and this compromises firefighter safety,” said Jeremy Bush, President of Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters Local 124.

"The Fire Chief asked for a certain budget, we made no cuts to that budget. The Mayor and the administration presented a budget, we made no cuts to that budget. And there would've been millions of dollars cut without the tax increases we'd done,” said Councilman Dr. John Crawford (R – At-Large).

Now the union is asking City Council to invoke a provision in the Indiana Code that allows them to ask the mayor for more funding.

Council members say that is something the union will need to take up with Fire Command. If Fire Command and the union agree more funding is needed in their budget, Crawford says there could be some money available to them that has not been accounted for yet.

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